The Call To Come Higher

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Now the Lord said to Abram, “Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you” (Gen. 12:1).

There is significance in this whole story, though the details in this single verse are sketchy. The Bible tells us that Abram’s father, Terah, worshipped multiple gods; he was polytheistic. Abram was the first to embrace a single god idea: monotheism.

From a metaphysical point of view we can see there is a distinct shift in philosophy here. Abram is called by the single voice of the Lord—Yahweh—to leave his father’s house and move to a land where he and his descendants will become a great nation. The significance here is that God’s promise of greatness to Abram is conditional on Abram’s abandoning his polytheistic heritage and follow Yahweh.

When you think of Terah and Abram, not as biblical characters but as states of consciousness, you begin to grasp the importance of this change. This shift in thinking to the idea of a single power at work in your life is the beginning of your spiritual success.

When our emotions are controlled by appearances, we become subject to a multitude of secondary “powers” that negatively influence our action. Fear, self doubt, resentment, and emotional wounds we don’t think we can get over are just a few of these debilitating little “gods” that we bow before. The conditions they engender become a hydra-headed dragon and we end up devoting a lot of our time and energy trying to keep it at bay. Then we find we have the same problem that Hercules had with this beast: Every time we cut off one head, two more take its place. And at least one of them knows how to swing in and nip us from behind.

So, what do we have to do to leave this old country and head off to this new land of peace, power, and plenty? According to the story there are only two things we can do at this juncture: say, “yes I’m willing,” and start packing.

Three Steps to Freedom

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One of my favorite Moses stories occurs in the fourteenth chapter of Exodus. Pharaoh has finally let Israel go, but then he has a change of heart and decides to wipe them out. Israel’s escape is blocked by the Red Sea. They see the Egyptian army thundering down on them and they are terrified. Moses issues a set of three instructions that can help any of us under much lesser extremes. “And Moses said to the people, ‘Fear not, stand firm, and see the salvation of the Lord, which he will work for you today; for the Egyptians whom you see today, you shall never see again.’”

Fear not: Get control of your emotions. Fear squelches the creative imagination and is by far the most unproductive, debilitating emotion we can harbor. Moses simply says, stop doing that. You have a choice. Take the first step and stop your out-of-control habit of fearing. This advice, fear not, is repeated at least 33 times in the Bible.

Stand firm: Just watch where your mind goes when you are challenged. What if this happens? What if that happens? What if nothing happens? It’s all over the place, not firm at all. To stand firm means to center yourself. Stand firm in the idea that greater good is working out through this situation. What spiritual principles do you accept as true? Are you standing firm with them, or are you waiting to see what happens before you will trust them? This is your opportunity to take the high road, to demonstrate the power of your new insights.

See the salvation of the Lord: Now you are to visualize a successful outcome, and not necessarily the one you think is best. Do you suppose Israel had a collective visualization and imagined the Red Sea opening? I doubt they ever would have imagined that. How can you visualize an answer you cannot imagine? You see yourself happy, content, filled with the peace of knowing the storm is over. Does it matter how it ends? No, it doesn’t. It only matters that you learn to hold your peace and continue to live your life successfully in spite of appearances.

Practice applying these three simple instructions in any situation that arises and see how quickly those pursuing Egyptians become a non-issue.



Your Life is Holy Ground

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Moses is undoubtedly one of the most famous and beloved Old Testament characters, possibly because we all relate to his efforts to set his people free from their Egyptian enslavement. It’s a story we can all identify with. At one point in Hebrew history, Egypt was an answer. The tribes of Israel moved there because of famine in their own land. Later, Egypt became the problem, as a Pharaoh who did not know Joseph saw the growing Hebrew population as a threat, thus enslaving them.

Moses was raised in an Egyptian household and was spared the hardships of his kin. One day he killed an Egyptian who was mistreating a Hebrew slave and he was forced to flee Egypt and live as a shepherd, reconnecting with his roots. While in the solitude of the countryside God speaks to Moses from a burning bush, calling him into service for the task of freeing his people.

Moses represents the understanding of God as law, a quantum leap from the view that God is capricious, moody, and completely unpredictable. The understanding of God as law means that when certain conditions are met, certain consequences are inevitable. Someone described affirmative prayer as the act of setting certain mental and emotional conditions that make a specific outcome inevitable.

According to the story, God’s will for the Hebrew people was the condition of prosperity and absolute freedom. It was the understanding of God as law (Moses) that brought them out of captivity and into their land of plenty. So it is with us. We may be waiting for God to act and bring about our freedom. The voice of God reminded Moses that the place upon which he was standing was holy ground. Like Jacob, Moses did not know he was in the presence of God.

When we realize that we are in the presence of God, that we are now standing on holy ground, we stop asking God to do things for us and begin to affirm and visualize the desired condition coming into manifestation. When we see and hold to a truth, we are creating an internal condition that makes certain external consequences inevitable, like 1+1 always produces 2.

You and I now stand in the fully operating kingdom of God. Dwell on what you want, expecting it to come about, and you will see a positive change for the better.

Understanding Grace

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One of the most famous references to the idea of grace comes from the familiar hymn, Amazing Grace. The hymn began its life in 1772 as part of the sermon notes of John Newton, a former English slave trader turned preacher. The last verse, “When we’ve been there ten thousand years …” was added decades later by, many believe, John Rees. These lyrics were eventually set to a borrowed tune called, New Britian.

The first line, Amazing grace, how sweet the sound, that saved a wretch like me, makes total sense when you consider Newton’s slave-trading history and subsequent conversion to Christianity. He undoubtedly felt that he had been spared a very long and miserable afterlife. He would have appreciated the more modern cliché, There but for the grace of God go I, which means that something bad that happened to others could just as easily have happened to him, were it not for God’s grace.

Clearly, the idea of grace is linked to a religiously inspired worm of the dust mentality. Webster defines grace as “unmerited divine assistance,” which points to the concept of God as the moody old man who regrets having created this problem known as the human race. The grace of God, like this limited view of God, are both products of humankind’s low spiritual self esteem.

There is no such thing as unmerited divine assistance. Jesus pointed out that the sun shines on the just and the unjust, that the prodigal son created his own suffering and that a man born blind was not so stricken because of either his or his parent’s sins.

God is love and love operates by law, unchanging and predictable in its nurturing behavior. Does an airplane fly by grace, or because it fulfills known and predictable laws of gravity? Frankly, I would not board a plane whose flight depended on grace. I will board one that flies by law.

The concept of grace can be a major stumbling block in our forward movement of developing spiritual consciousness. It is good to understand how we see our relationship to God. Do we think of ourselves, as Emerson said, as the “permitted” wretch, or have we embraced ourselves as expressions of the Infinite, worthy of all the support and assistance this freeing truth implies?

New Beginnings

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Life unfolds in cycles. If you observe these cycles closely you will see that there are times when things seem to be falling apart and other times when they are falling in place. We’re often confronted with this classical question: Is the cup half full or is it half empty?

This question points to a very important idea that we all need to keep in mind. Your answer is determined, not by the condition of the cup, but by how you are feeling at the moment you are viewing it. If you are optimistic and full of expectation, the cup will be half full. If you are feeling weak and vulnerable, beat by circumstances, the cup will appear to be half empty.

Many spiritual teachers have, as a standard principle, adopted the concept, life is consciousness. The condition of the cup need not determine how you feel. Determine how you feel and the condition of the cup will take care of itself.

Have you noticed during one of your low moments, how easily an encouraging word or phrase from a book or a bible verse can suddenly inspire you to a new way of seeing? A cup that looked half empty moments before now suddenly becomes half full … and filling. Do not get discouraged in your emotionally low moments! Refuse to set your course by these brief seasons of low visioning. Always remember that in the “twinkling of an eye” everything can change because you allow yourself to change the way you see.

Each new moment is a potential new beginning. It does not matter how negative you have been even one moment ago. You can start now to set a new energy in motion. Create a positive, encouraging affirmation and begin saying it, grasping the joy and emotional expectation that lays the groundwork for your success. Refuse to be the victim of circumstance or personality. In those moments when you slip back into the half-empty mode, remember that life is dynamic, that there is every reason to hold to even the tiniest glimmer of hope, declaring that the good you desire is now coming forth.

We stand at the threshold of a new year. See it as not only half full, but brimming with possibilities of unimagined opportunity!

Intelligence and Order

Fourth Sunday of Advent

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In this four-part series, we are treating Advent as an intuitive awakening. Our focus is on the meditative process. Follow the same preparations from the first week. Bring your awareness into the region of the solar plexus using the simple statement, I Am.

Open your mind to the quickening presence of intelligence. Your entire being is already permeated with intelligence. The functions of your body are all governed by it. You see and experience intelligence as order in your breathing, the beating of your heart, and all the many activities within the universe of your body of which you are not even aware. You see intelligence in the flower, in your pet, in the birds and the clouds that sail across the sky.

As you relax and let go, get the sense of this truth that you are completely immersed in intelligence and that your life is now unfolding in perfect order. Affirm:

The very essence of my being is intelligence.

My mind is clear. My thinking is orderly. I see things in their highest relation to the whole.

My vision is clear. My soul is imbued with the wisdom of the universe.

In all I do, I move forward in confidence and in peace.

Release all feelings of uncertainty about your life and know the intelligence of your soul is guiding your every step. Lift your spiritual eyes away from all appearances and see yourself as a conduit through which infinite intelligence is expressing as you.

Everyone and everything becomes part of your success in living. If your life seems to be pushing you to the left when you think you should go right, then know the intelligence expressing as your soul is now at work. Do not strain to work out plans or struggle to control events. Hold fast to the truth that the wisdom of your soul is directing your life, that the order and success you desire is unfolding with every new development.

An Evolution in Learning

“Learn as if you were to live forever.” Gandhi

It’s always stimulating to shift from the monologue of writing to the dialog of discussion. So I’m happy to respond to an important issue recently raised from a couple of people in different settings. It is good to question, even challenge every assertion concerning spiritual matters. In this case, I’ve been asked to draw a distinction between the notion of the complete soul and the thrill and challenge of continued learning. Is it an either/or proposition, or can we have both?

Debunking the notion of the evolving soul does not mean our days of learning are over. Remaining true to our spiritual birthright, in fact, assures we will never stop learning. The irony is that those who would challenge the notion that their soul is already complete usually do so because it goes against something they have learned previously. Isn’t the act of attempting to protect such a preconceived notion similar to saying, I’ve learned all I need to learn on this subject? If I once learned that some object of interest lay in the south but it’s really in the north, do I argue to justify continuing my southbound travel or do I become willing to learn the new route to the north? We tend to reject ideas, not based on the idea’s lack of veracity, but because it doesn’t fit the framework of what we believe to be true.

There is a major difference between learning because you’re interested in a subject and learning because you won’t graduate if you don’t take the class. Many see our earthly appearance as the required class. If you flunk the tests given, you return to take them again. For some, this is a more appealing alternative to the one chance, two alternative eternities offered by most mainstream religions. But it is nevertheless an endless treadmill that leads nowhere. Being good doesn’t get you off this treadmill. The only way off is to step off.

Many hold a certain reverence for the ascetic who retires to a cave in the mountains and spends his life denouncing the material world. But I would ask a simple question: Why go to the trouble of taking on a body and material environment then spend all your energy denouncing it? It seems more logical to learn to be in the world but not of it. I believe we shoot ourselves in the foot by thinking we came here to transcend our physical environment. It makes a lot more sense to me to assume we came here for the unique experiences it has to offer.

Denouncing the world makes perfect sense if you subscribe to the evolving soul model. The world and its countless distractions is, after all, the source of your problems. Our earthly life becomes a school full of soul-advancing tests. But what if this isn’t true? What if we’re here not to merely pass tests but because we were interested in exploring this earthly experience? We can’t do it without a body. And we certainly can’t do it successfully with the fear of eternal damnation or the prospect of endless incarnations dangling over our heads. Are we not equipped with a natural, unbridled curiosity about what makes this world tick? We don’t see children denouncing it. We see them diving into the thick of it, eager to explore. I say this because Jesus apparently saw the natural curiosity of a child as a prime example of the mental disposition required for spiritual advancement (alignment):

He called a little child to him, and placed the child among them. And he said: “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore, whoever takes the lowly position of this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven (Matthew 18:2-4).

The theory of soul evolution has spawned a framework of expectations that must be met before the individual is deemed spiritually enlightened. There is indeed more to learn, but what is it that we need to learn? The fact is, we have created a false spiritual ideal (based largely on the opinions of others) against which we weigh our perceived progress. If we respond positively to a challenging situation, we conclude that our soul is advancing. If we respond negatively, we assume our soul has more to learn. But here’s the problem. This is a false benchmark that has nothing to do with the soul. It is, rather, the misguided attempt of our self-image to build the perfect soul.

In the parable of the prodigal son, there is a line that perfectly illustrates this idea (Luke 15:1-32). When the boy hit bottom, “… he came to himself …” (15:17). If, as is implied by the evolving soul model, his condition in life represented the condition of his soul, how could coming to himself provide any kind of solution? Wouldn’t following the promptings of this “self” guarantee a repeat of the same dysfunctional thinking? It is obvious that his bad behavior led him to the far country. What isn’t so obvious is that the solution to his problem was to reconnect with the saving influence of his spiritual essence, his soul. Unscathed by misguided behavior, this inner connection prompted him to cease chasing the endless cravings of an inadequate self-image and begin making decisions aligned with his authentic core. While it’s true that we drag around Emerson’s sad self wherever we go, it’s also true that our saving core, our spiritual essence is with us even in those lonely, cloud-shrouded moments of self-inflicted despair. It would appear the Psalmist captured this truth in these immortal lines:

Where can I go from your spirit? From your presence, where can I flee?
If I ascend to the heavens, you are there; if I lie down in Sheol, there you are.
If I take the wings of dawn and dwell beyond the sea,
Even there your hand guides me, your right hand holds me fast.
If I say, “Surely darkness shall hide me, and night shall be my light”— Darkness is not dark for you,
and night shines as the day. Darkness and light are but one.
You formed my inmost being; you knit me in my mother’s womb.
I praise you, because I am wonderfully made; wonderful are your works! My very self you know. (Psalms 139:7-14).

The parable of the prodigal is not the story of a developing soul or of a religious conversion. For me it has become an illustration intended to show that no matter how far we stray from our spiritual center, our soul remains healthy and intact. The parable does not depict the act of spiritual discovery but the act of spiritual recovery. Discovery implies finding something you never had. Recovery suggests the regaining of something that has been yours from the beginning. The boy didn’t merely discover a new scheme that would lift him out of trouble. He came to himself. He recovered a conscious connection with his spiritual essence which immediately placed him on the road home.

Learn as if you were to live forever is sound advice. The truth that we do live forever should allow us to relax and take a new interest in learning as much as we can about this world we temporarily inhabit.